Pilbara businesses struggling with critical labour shortages could soon feel some relief with the approval of a migration plan allowing small businesses to hire foreign workers for 66 different occupations. The Pilbara designated area migration agreement is a five-year agreement between the Federal Government and Regional Development Australia in partnership with the City of Karratha and Town of Port Hedland. Local businesses will be able to apply to access the DAMA from May. The agreement was signed by Federal Immigration Minister Alex Hawke on March 30 and will provide new pathways for employers to sponsor skilled and semi-skilled overseas workers for positions they are unable to fill with Australian workers. It covers 66 occupations, including trades and machinery operation, engineers and trades to support the current resource industries, as well as key service occupations including aged and childcare and health services to support the increasing population in the region. Mr Hawke said with a large number of workers being fly-in-fly-out employees, the region was in the unique situation of not being able to fill all available job vacancies with local residents. “The establishment of the Pilbara DAMA will play a significant part in building the region, drawing highly skilled workers to reside locally and support diversification of the local economy by providing opportunities for critical support services for the region,” he said. Durack MHR Melissa Price said the Pilbara region had an abundance of employment opportunities. “I have fought hard for this Pilbara DAMA as it will be particularly helpful to drive the growth of small and medium-sized enterprises in the Pilbara who have struggled to grow due to a lack of staff,” she said. Talks for a Pilbara DAMA began in 2018 before the City of Karratha decided in December 2020 to ask the Federal Government to establish the agreement. RDA Pilbara will administer the process of accessing the Pilbara DAMA, which will be open to businesses operating in the City of Karratha and Town of Port Hedland. Karratha mayor Peter Long said the city was delighted to offer a solution for recruitment and retention issues to local businesses. “Attracting and retaining staff is a major issue facing our business community,” he said. “The Pilbara DAMA is a key part of the city’s efforts to support local business navigate recruitment challenges. “While not traditionally a local government responsibility, helping businesses attract and retain workers is a priority for us, particularly where business haven’t been able to find workers locally.” Regional Development Australia Pilbara chief executive Tony Simpson said more than half of the occupations listed on the DAMA were roles which serviced the community. “The DAMA is more than just mining and industry and aims to build a stronger community,” he said. Port Hedland mayor Peter Carter said the DAMA supported the local business community by proactively addressing critical labour shortages. A joint funding model between RDA Pilbara, the City of Karratha and the Town of Port Hedland will subsidise the cost of applications to access the Pilbara DAMA.